Are you looking for an adventurous trip with a purpose, or on a gap year or career break? If you want to make a difference in some of the world’s most important conservation areas - and in community projects - then volunteer trips are for you! Volunteers tend to have a sense of adventure, and come from a range of different backgrounds and from all over the world. Edward Abbey said 'sentiment without action is the ruin of the soul'.
Responsible tourism: Research volunteering with leopards in South Africa
We believe that everyone is able to help make a difference towards conserving our environment. When in the bush, we operate a policy of ‘bring out what you take in’ ie. we leave no litter or man made products behind. Game drive vehicles should not deviate from existing roads and tracks. When on foot, stay on the trail as deviating can cause erosion and other environmentally harmful impacts.
Respect wildlife. Our research may bring you in close proximity to wild animals, viewing animals from a safe distance is fine, however touching, feeding, or affecting their behaviour is not.
Do not litter. Even if you see a local person littering (and you probably will), set an example and dispose of your garbage appropriately. Recycling facilities are extremely limited in South Africa. Avoid products with excess packaging; opt for beverages in glass bottles, as they tend to be re-used. Use only biodegradable soaps and shampoos.
One of the biggest issues in Africa is water conservation. Preservation of this most important resource is at the top of our agenda. Our guests are able to contribute towards water conservation during their stay. For example taking showers not baths, conserving water from a reduction in the laundering of towels and linens.
As per our code of conduct, only biodegradable washing products are permitted.
Guests are responsible for their own laundry and water usage is controlled. In general, locally sources foods are purchased. The accommodation lies within an area of abundant natural resources in terms of agriculture, therefore it is possible to purchase directly from the grower. No off road or bush driving is permitted and all research is conducted on foot.
We do not believe in wasting any resources and therefore the administration stationery and equipment of both our company and the Ingwe Leopard Project is minimised. We do not produce brochures or any other printed material and operate only through magnetic media and the internet.
Carbon emissions from this project are limited to vehicle use. While we take every effort to minimise vehicle use, we have need to offset our carbon emissions.
We believe that responsible tourism should include opportunities for travelers to become involved with wildlife conservation at a reasonable price. Our package is aimed at providing travelers with an opportunity to become actively involved in wildlife conservation and help us to make a real difference.
This program has been devised to provide actual support to the INGWE Leopard Research program, by inviting guests to help with leopard and other large carnivore research. This research is urgently required to help conserve and preserve wildlife outside of formally protected areas. This work has already succeeded in persuading local government to ban sports hunting of leopards in our local area. With assistance from guests and research volunteers we can provide authoritative data to assist in policy changes with regard to wildlife management in South Africa.
The leaders of the project have been actively involved and are experienced in leopard research.
When purchasing food, meals, and souvenirs, we recommend that guests buy locally produced goods and support local artisans. In this way, you are able to help sustain the local community, contribute towards conservation, and enrich their own lives. Respect cultural differences. Local customs and traditions may be different from your own. Take the time to learn what behaviour is acceptable and what is not.
Reviews of Research volunteering with leopards in South Africa
You can trust Responsible Travel reviews because, unlike many other schemes, reviews can ONLY be written by people who we have verified have been on the vacations.
I am reborn! Simply the best vacation I have ever been on
Some great stories to tell the grandchildren. Would recommend to a friend
It was OK
A bit disappointing really
Reviewed on 23 Dec 2014 by Julia Luxemburger
1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?
The entire trip was memorable: sleeping in a tent and cooking over open fire, seeing the diversity of life on a daily basis, being immersed in the bush, hearing the roaring thunder bounce off the mountain walls, and doing my part for the conservation of the Thabo Thalo nature reserve. However, I think the most impactful part of the trip for me was when Tara and I went to see a local farmer whose goat herd had been attacked. The fact that we were called at all shows that all the years of effort that Tara has put in is finally paying off. Instead of shooting first, they called us. It is a small, but significant first step in our conservation efforts to protect leopards and other carnivores in the area.
2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?
Plan what time of year/season you wish to go, depending on what you want to see. For example, winter is colder, not as green but the bush is often less dense.
3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?
I believe my small contribution to the Thabo Thalo reserve did have an impact, no matter how small. From spending a bit of time at a local school, to monitoring controlled burns for regrowth and regeneration, to data entry for future research on carnivore demographics and conservation efforts, I learned a great deal about the culture and the area that was my temporary home.
4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?
Overall it was an excellent trip and I would certainly recommend it. Very knowledgeable and friendly staff. There are certain things that I wished I knew before hand and certain things that could not be controlled: my big 5 trip was one of the coldest days of the month, which was disappointing, but we can't control the weather. Also, I wish I had known before hand that Tara was on vacation the first week and that she was leaving at the end of the month. I would have preferred a time where I could have picked her brain for the entire month.